CIPD Absence Management Survey 2015 – Cost of absence needs more focus

CIPD and Simplyhealth have released the results of their annual Absence Management Survey 2015. The headline finding is a slightly higher level of absence at 6.9 days per employee per year compared to 6.6 last year. The survey sample size this year was smaller at just 578 companies. According to the absence levels breakdown table, only 396 (69%) of the respondents could report what their absence level was.

Cost of absence needs greater focus

The cost of absence is still only reported by 37% of survey respondents, same proportion as in 2014. The reported costs vary wildly giving the suggestion that some respondents gave the number for the whole organisation rather than the requested per head per day figure. Therefore, the meaningful average used in this report as in previous years is the median cost, which shows a slight decline. In Absence Management Survey 2015, the median cost is £554 per employee, lowest since 2010. In 2014, this figure was £609 and in 2013 £595.

As admitted by the survey writers, different companies include different factors in the cost of absence. It would therefore be useful to break down the cost of absence into specific elements. This would ensure that the answers are comparable and accurate. Using a consistent formula for calculating the cost of absence, like that used in our Absence Cost Calculator would allow more respondents to answer the questions and would provide very useful information on absence cost both to the respondents themselves and add credibility to the survey findings.

The survey report and recommendations place high emphasis on employee wellbeing strategies. It suggests that these should form the focus of employers in the process of improving attendance. Proactive investment in employee wellbeing is a very important goal. Preventing problems is often much easier than remedying them after they occur. However, companies are still not paying enough attention to absence management overall and we believe that the only factor that can open the eyes of senior managers is the bottom line cost of absence.

Absence is the second highest employee cost

As Honeydew Health Managing Director, Malene Nielsen says “absence is the second highest employment cost after salaries and companies need to realise that. These annual Absence Management Surveys are good in bringing absence to the attention of media, making sure absence stays on the government agenda but the results are very similar every year and don’t really tell us much that is new. Until managers see numbers in pounds and pence, directly related to their own organisation, no change is likely to happen”.

Corinne Williams, of Simplyhealth, writes in her foreword that “just a quarter of organisations achieved their 2014 [absence] target … This shows that merely having a target isn’t enough; organisations need to link it to their overarching business strategy and continually measure and evaluate it to ensure it remains on track.” Making sure that absence reporting is easy and part of day-to-day routines is key. Honeydew advises that producing absence figures should not be a task undertaken annually or even monthly in arrears. Instead, absence data should be available to managers live at any time. This makes sure management actions take place early and proactively. Early intervention means there is a maximum opportunity to reduce the impact and length of the absence.

Other key findings in the Absence Management Survey 2015:

  • Absence has increased most in the public sector (now nearly 9 days per employee per year)
  • A third of organisations report an increase in presenteeism. More than half of those that do have not done anything to discourage this trend
  • Where absence is a Key Performance Indicator, absence management is more proactive
  • Two fifths feel that stress-related absence has increased over the past year – same as the year before

To assess your organisation’s cost of absence, use Absenehub’s Absence Cost Calculator. Our online absence reporting tool, Engage, is a great way to make sure you can report on absence levels accurately and achieve improved attendance.